Published August 31, 2022
A 4-year-old boy Minh from Vietnam was born with a complex heart defect and wouldn’t have survived without a series of surgeries. Fortunately, he was operated on at Children’s HeartLink partner National Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Hanoi. The NCH team has been working on improving their cardiac program with the help of medical volunteers from the University of California San Francisco (UCSF). Their mentorship has brought advanced cardiac techniques to Hanoi, allowing a local team to operate on complex cases like Minh’s.
This pediatric cardiac care is possible thanks to Children’s HeartLink supporters and funders. Since 2017, the Ping and Amy Chao Family Foundation has been sponsoring our work in Hanoi, to increase the quality of care for children in their own country. In July 2022, the Chao Foundation extended our partnership for one more year.
“This partnership is critical to helping children with heart disease in Vietnam, where there are long waiting lists for cardiac surgery and a great need for cardiac professionals. Long-term support from the Chao Foundation made our work in Hanoi possible by sponsoring advanced medical training and increasing the hospital’s capacity to treat more children, including those with complex heart conditions,” says Children’s HeartLink President Jackie Boucher.
From 2017 through 2020, the Chao Foundation supported our in-person training program in Hanoi. Medical volunteers traveled to Hanoi several times to train a total of 240 medical professionals. The UCSF team is led by Dr. Shunji Sano, a pediatric heart surgeon world-renowned for surgical innovations. When the pandemic started, the UCSF team pivoted to virtual training sessions and weekly conference calls to discuss complex cases. Additionally, the NCH staff participated remotely in advanced cardiology series and 3-D printed heart seminars provided by our other volunteer institution Sick Kids’ Hospital.
“We perform many complex open heart surgeries now, and we can apply the most up-to-date treatment strategies to provide the best outcomes for patients,” says NCH Director of the Cardiology Center and Head of Cardiovascular Surgery Dr. Nguyen Ly Thinh Truong.
Since the Chao Foundation began supporting our work in Vietnam in 2017, Children’s HeartLink has trained 741 clinicians through hospital site visits and remote trainings. “Over the years, these interactions have paved the way for increased case complexity and volume, increased number of newborns operated on annually, as well as decreased infection and mortality rates,” says Children’s HeartLink Vice President of Programs and Evaluation Anne Betzner.
The latest year of partnership sponsored by the Chao Foundation focuses on improving surgical techniques and enhancing multidisciplinary team communication and clinical decision-making. “These training opportunities for both junior and senior clinicians enabled the team in Hanoi to continue improving clinical outcomes and patient care, expanding the potential to handle greater case volume and more complex cases of congenital heart disease,” adds Betzner.
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In Vietnam, an estimated 10,000 children are born with congenital heart disease annually, and approximately 25% need surgery in the first year of life to survive. Only five pediatric cardiac programs in Vietnam offer surgery for infants, leaving at least half of children without access to treatment. There is an immense need in Vietnam to improve systems of care: from screening and detection to treatment and follow-up care. Children’s HeartLink develops long-term partnerships with hospitals to establish and maintain sustainable access to quality care. Additionally, Children’s HeartLink trains these partner hospitals to become regional trainers, creating networks of care that reach further than any one hospital or medical volunteer team. Currently, we support 18 partner hospitals in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia and Vietnam. In 2021, our medical volunteers trained over 5,400 professionals and helped more than 122,000 children worldwide. Read more about our work in Vietnam and other countries.
The Ping and Amy Chao Family Foundation was founded in California’s Silicon Valley in 2005 by Ping Chao and his wife Amy. The foundation was established to fund nonprofit and public welfare initiatives that (1) improve children’s health in developing countries; and (2) nurture a spirit of philanthropy among the younger generation in China and of the greater Chinese Diaspora. While the Chao Foundation is based in the Bay Area and has local projects, many of its programs focus on developing countries in East Asia, from China and Cambodia to Vietnam.